Steel bars were cut “systematically” at the MTR Hung Hom station expansion to compensate for mistakes in construction, a boss at one of the project’s subcontractors has claimed.

Jason Poon Chuk-hung, a director of the construction subcontractor China Technology Corporation, said on a Commercial Radio program on Thursday that he saw workers cutting steel bars “with forethought and planning” over the course of 2015, sometimes with the help of dedicated machines. Poon also claimed that the MTR Corporation’s frontline officials were aware of the situation but did not manage to stop the cutting.

“The incident was enough to affect structural safety, so [China Technology] tried to stop it, but we couldn’t,” he said, proposing that samples be taken from affected areas to determine safety.

Jason Poon Chuk-hung
Jason Poon Chuk-hung. Photo: Screenshot.

The scandal-hit Hung Hom station expansion is part of the HK$97.1 billion Shatin to Central Link. In 2015, workers cut steel bars instead of correctly screwing them into the couplers connecting the platform wall and the floor. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has ordered a commission of enquiry into the scandal, while lawmakers have urged a separate Legislative Council enquiry.

On Wednesday the MTR Corporation published a statement in multiple newspapers saying that some individuals were “making one-sided accusations and speculations.” In response, Poon said that the MTRC was trying to “discredit” China Technology, and that he decided to give media interviews to protect his company’s reputation.

Poon said the steel bars were not cut by workers from China Technology. He said he was under a confidentiality requirement and did not name specific parties.

For the Hung Hom station expansion, the main contractor Leighton Contractors (Asia) Limited was responsible for overseeing the platform slab’s construction. Subcontractor Fang Sheung was responsible for preparing and fixing the steel bars, while China Technology was responsible for pouring concrete.

MTR steel bars
Photo: Screenshot.

The reason for cutting the steel bars was due to an earlier mistake in construction, according to Poon. Because the couplers – a component that connects the platform floor to the wall – were not correctly aligned, the steel bars could not be inserted. Workers then cut off the ends of steel bars and arranged the components so that they appeared properly connected.

Poon added that it was “reasonable” to put the estimate for cut steel bars at around a few hundred to over a thousand, declining to give an exact figure due to confidentiality. This contradicted a previous statement from the MTRC that put the number at less than 25.

‘One-sided accusations’

Poon claimed that the MTRC’s top executives knew about the problems at Hung Hom station expansion before the media reported on it in June, saying that the company was aware of a complaint email he wrote in January 2017.

“I don’t believe that the MTRC’s frontline staff and middle management failed to report this to their superiors,” he said.

MTRC hung hom station corner cutting report china technology
An excerpt from the MTRC report. Photo: MTRC.

On June 15 MTRC submitted a report to the government on the Hung Hom station expansion, which did not include evidence given by China Technology representatives. Poon said that he provided specific information to the MTR regarding the incident, and does not understand why it was omitted it from the report.

The MTRC told HKFP that it had already taken every feasible measure to investigate the issue, and the report submitted to the government included all available information. The MTRC said it has faith in the commission of enquiry and will continue to cooperate.

Leighton Asia did not return a request for comment.

Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.